Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another experimental post

Three reasons for posting this:

  1. Lately, I've seen so many blogs with embedded videos that I thought I need to experiment with this too. So, this is a video experiment. YouTube experiment, rather.
  2. Ever since I found The Follow by Wong Kar Wai (perhaps the best of the eight films of the BMW film series The Hire) I was simply fascinated. If this is the way a product is promoted, I'm sure I'd want many more of them. The only problem is BMWs come at a price which is beyond my reach.
  3. I'm still under filmi influence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Filmi influence

Note: This is a rambling post about a few films that I recently watched and enjoyed. What I am writing are very personal opinions and should not be taken too seriously. And in no way should you let my opinion influence your decision to watch a film.

The Namesake as a whole is not more than its parts. (I mean the film here, not the book.) And if you are a little confused about what I mean by that statement I should say that the film, despite being armed with a universally appealing theme, a decent script, fine performances (though some discerning audience complained about the uneven Bangla accents of Tabu and Irrfan), and the assured touch of a seasoned director, somehow, doesn't quite deliver -- it remains a good film but doesn't go beyond that, it falls short somewhere, it fails to resonate in the heart. It is all the more disappointing because The Namesake is essentially a film about our efforts to rediscover the simple joys of life at the end of all the losses we suffer -- the loss of country, home, family, and the people we love -- and therefore should have walked the extra mile to enforce that message. Also, the inherent melancholy of the story doesn't quite come out as beautifully as I would have liked. Therein lies my disappointment.

The Old Barber is a Chinese film that shows the apparently nondescript life of an old nonagenarian barber living in the cramped and decrepit alleyways (hutong) of Beijing. The film beautifully captures the tranquil lives of Grandpa Jin (the old barber) and other similar old people, as they go about their daily chores, and quite surreptitiously imposes upon us the meaning of life and death, as seen through the eyes of these old people. Acted mostly by non professional actors (Grandpa Jin plays himself in the film), most of whom were found in retirement homes, the film is surprisingly refreshing. There's no trace of cynicism; rather, the film celebrates life in all its beauty.

Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski's The Decalogue is a actually a series of ten independent short films that were originally produced to be shown on Polish television and are loosely based on the Ten Commandments. I only watched the first three parts of this series and was completely spellbound. Never ever have I seen the human fallibility, the moral dilemma, the deep anguish, handled with such deftness. The sparse dialogues and the expressive frames convey the moods much more eloquently. Indeed, as Stanley Kubrick said, "These films have the very real ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them... They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart." I, for one, am still under their influence.

Among other films I watched and find worth mentioning are Kissed by Winter (a story of a female doctor attempting to come to terms with the guilt of losing her only son), Nottam (a Malayalam film about a middle-aged Koodiyattam performer, who, notwithstanding the disappointments in his personal life, seeks solace in his art), and The Little Lieutenant (a French crime drama about the police detectives in Paris, but primarily a story of two human beings -- a middle-aged female chief detective fighting alcoholism and loneliness and a confused rookie recruit who reminds her of her own dead son).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Up among the clouds


Dhanaulti, June 2006

Three reasons for publishing this post:
  1. I just wanted to find out how to publish a photo here. So, this is sort of an experimental post.
  2. I'm still thinking about the next post that I'll write (without much progress though, I should add). And I don't like it when my thinking yields no result. So, this is also a pseudo-post to make myself feel better.
  3. I'm longing for a dark cloudy day. Preferably with a drizzle and a chilly wind. The bright sunshine outside the window looks much too cheerful, and I don't like it as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

After the films are over

It's a little difficult to write after watching eleven films in a weekend -- the words tend to get replaced with images. Moreover, any good film is bound to cast a spell and it requires some time to come out of that. I'll wait a few more days to see how deeply
I got swayed by the films. I'm sure that most of what I've seen will be forgotten. But I'm equally sure that some of the images, characters, and dialogues will continue to haunt me. And I just want to wait and find out which were they. I'll write about them after I find out.

The 5th Pune International Film Festival (where I've been seeing these films) is, however, still on. But, since I've to work for a living, I cannot go on watching films the whole day on weekdays. I'll only catch the last shows from today.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Disconnected

My mobile phone connection is, I find out much to my chagrin, blocked temporarily. I can neither make nor receive calls now. And this has happened because I failed to remember to furnish my fresh residential address proof to the service provider. How utterly disgusting!

However, when I think about it with a calm head, I don't think I'm much affected by this development. Very few people feel the need to talk to me nowadays, and I myself do not call up too many people anyway. There wasn't really much to worry about. The world will go on as usual, I contemplated rather philosophically, even if I remain disconnected for a few days.

So far it was so good. I almost succeeded in convincing myself that being disconnected for a few days is, in fact, quite cool. I accepted it with quite good humor. But then, much though I dislike him, I also have inside me a more practical (and spoilsport, I must say) version of myself who's forever disapproving of all my theories about life and living. Hence, I am accused, once again, of being careless, worthless, and retroactive (I mention only three, there were plenty other unflattering adjectives hurled at me).

Well, sorry for dumping this kind of total trash in the form of a post. But that's something you'll have to bear with when I'm not in the right frame of mind. And right now, my mind is just a little off-balance.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not quite cricket

For someone who'd once been an avid cricket enthusiast I find myself surprisingly nonchalant about the ongoing World Cup. By this time, till a few years back, I would have glued myself to television -- but not anymore. (Well, it has nothing to do with my not owning a television, though. Given a television today, I'd most likely be watching a movie on it.)

I do not know when exactly my interest in cricket started waning -- the change must have been so gradual that I failed to notice it. And now my knowledge of cricket has dwindled to such an extent that I don't even know the names of all the countries that are playing in this World Cup. Agreed, there are a lot of new teams (minnows, as we are calling them) playing in this World Cup; but even about the seasoned teams, I doubt, I have very little information. But more than not knowing, it is perhaps the unwillingness to know (I've been skipping cricket news in the newspapers for quite some time now) that marks my departure from a cricket enthusiast.

Cricket, to me now, is like an estranged lover -- there's no ill feeling, but there's neither the passionate attachment of yesteryears. There simply lies an unfathomable distance between us now.

I know the teenage me of yesteryears, who grew up playing this game, would not have approved of this. But then, he would not have approved of so many other things about what I'm today, anyway.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Books and memories

I went book-shopping yesterday. I bought a few books, but browsed lot more. It's such a pleasure when you have rows of stacked books and you can pick any of them at random, scan through the pages at unhurried pace, read the blurbs, and sometimes even test-read a few pages. It's very similar to an extravagantly laid out buffet where you can taste a little bit of so many dishes.

Now, I must add here that I'm not a very dedicated reader. And I'm certainly not as voracious a reader as I'd want myself to be. I go book-shopping even when I know that I've not yet finished all the books I had picked up last time. I guess I love book-shopping (or book-browsing) more than reading. I am hopelessly polygamous when it comes to books.

Anyway, one good thing about my yesterday's book-shopping was that I found a book called Making a Mango Whistle. This book is the English translation of the famous Bangla book Aam Anthir Bhenpu (which, in turn, is an abridged version of Pather Panchali that was specially brought out for children) by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. I remember, in my childhood I read, in original Bangla, one particular chapter from this book. It's a chapter that describes an impromptu picnic that the siblings, Durga and Apu, enjoy in the woods, away from the prying eyes of their mother. I remember how magical the whole adventure looked to me back then. I had carried an image of that picnic all along and I had been looking for this book, if only to reread that particular chapter. I even remembered the original Bangla title of this chapter -- Choduibhati it was called (it's titled A feast in this translation). It's after years that I got to read that chapter yesterday, and I must say the magic remains undiminished.

Reading a translation, specially if you had read the original, can be a dissatisfying experience. But I am glad that this translation retains much of the original flavour and for that the credit must go to Rimli Bhattacharya, the translator. Sample these evoking lines from the blurb of the book:

'Suddenly, towards late afternoon, darkness fell and a monstrous pre-monsoon storm broke loose. Leaves of the bamboo and the jackfruit tree, dust and bits of straw came whirling into their courtyard filling it up in seconds. Durga sped out of the house to pick up falling mangoes and Apu ran after his sister...'

Satyajit Ray may have immortalized Apu and Durga on celluloid, but the book by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay demands, in it's own right, to be read, enjoyed, and cherished for generations.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A better day

It's a bright sunny day here. I ate and slept well last night. Also, talked to a few friends at random. And this morning, after coming to office I buried myself in work. To be busy with work is the only safeguard against all 'empty' feelings, I guess.

Well, this morning found a song by Runa Laila, the once-famous Bangladeshi singer. It's a song called Ranjish Hi Sahi, penned by Ahmed Faraz, a famous Pakistani poet. I think I have heard Mehdi Hassan sing this song before, but this one by Runa Laila was a revealation. This song toppled the position of Tumhe Ho Na Ho (in the movie Gharonda) from my favourite Runa Laila song.

But more than the voice, it is perhaps the words of Ahmed Faraz that makes it such a beautiful song. A Google search will give you numerous links to the full text of the lyrics. Here I'm just giving the opening lines.

"Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhaaney ke liye aa
aa phir se mujhe chhorr ke jaane ke liye aa"

Roughly translated, it means:

"Come to me, even if you are to cause me pain
Come to me, even if you are to leave me again"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A skeptical optimist

The third-floor office is quiet now. I stand up near the big glass window that is behind my seat and watch outside. In the fading daylight it looks beautiful from here. And as I watch outside I wonder if this is what they describe as dusky beauty.

The sky is a riot of colours now. The hills at the distance look like dark, lonely giants. The clouds are smeared with the colours of a dying sun.

Finally, the streetlights are lit. Soon, the lanscape is dotted with lights at all corners. Even the cars on the road below put on their headlights. The evening breeze, although I cannot feel it from inside this enclosed office, rustles the trees below.

And standing here, alone, I try to drive away the emptiness that had been disturbing me for the last few days. In fact, the word 'disturbing' would be an euphemism. What I actually felt was far more excruciating, unbearable, and violent. The feeling was stubborn like a nagging headache, only much more acute.

As I am publishing this post, it's already a full-fledged evening. The view from the glass window is even more beautiful now. But right now I'm too indifferent to appreciate anything. And I really hate myself when this happens.

Anyway, I'm just hoping that tomorrow would be a different day (which in all probability would be worse).